The week’s uncertainty over the formation of a government in Lesotho following its May 2012 National Assembly (NA) elections, whose results inferred a hung parliament scenario, has come to end.
The 120-member parliament was sworn in yesterday, Wednesday 6 June 2012, after the outgoing Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his party the Democratic Congress (DC) conceded failure at augmenting its 48 constituency win to the 61 seats in the NA, as required by the Constitution for the DC to form a government. The Speaker of Parliament and his deputy were also elected.
Based on the results of the elections and the interpretation of the Constitution, the DC cannot form a minority government. None of the political parties had an absolute majority in the Legislature, and so the options were either a hung parliament scenario (which could become protracted) or a coalition government.
Having anticipated this, the All Basotho Convention (ABC), the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), the Basotho National Party (BNP) and Marematlou Freedom Party formed an alliance on 29 May 2012, which effectively outmanoeuvred the DC’s prospects of doing the same. Seven other parties support the ABC-led coalition and the remaining parties could not increase the DC majority (assuming that the ABC led coalition remains intact).
The ABC, which split from the then ruling LCD in 2006, had been the main opposition party since the 2007 elections and has developed cordial relations with the LCD. Conversely, the possibility of a coalition between the LCD and the DC following the acrimony over Mosisili’s breakaway in February 2012 and the bitterness over LCD seizure of asserts by the DC, among others, negated the possibility of a DC/LCD coalition, which would have maintained the DC in power.
For the first time in Lesotho’s political history, the opposition has unseated the ruling party.
In the next few days, the Prime Minister, who is likely to be coalition leader Thomas Thabane, is to be sworn in along with his deputy, LCD leader Mothejoa Metsing, who was sacked as communications minister under the Mosisili regime.
Mosisili, who had announced that the 2012-2017 stint would be his last, now serves as the official opposition leader in parliament.
Cabinet will now be formed and there are calls from civil society to make it as inclusive as possible since the DC’s 48-constituency win is significant and should not be overlooked.
The ABC’s Thabane is most lauded for keeping his party politically active since the 2007 elections, demonstrating a high calibre of discipline and leadership, especially during parliamentary debates and election campaigns. But like its party counterparts, the ABC has not been immune to internal fragmentation and ‘floor-crossing problem-solving’. Internal fighting more recently led to two of its MPs crossing the floor in parliament to join the ruling LCD.
The need for internal cohesion and unity within the 71-majority ruling coalition cannot be overemphasised. As the transition draws to a close, the Thabane administration will have to get back to the business of governing the country and making parliament work for the electorate. In particular, coalition parties must deliver on their electoral mandates, while also importantly addressing the ills of the past government. These include gross and endemic corruption, institutionalized poor quality of governance and marked lack of progress in dealing with poverty, unemployment and human development.
Source: Institute for Security Studies